Sildenafil triggers tumor lethality through altered expression of HSP90 and degradation of PKD2

Lu Chen, Yang Liu, Alexander Becher, Kristina DIepold, Evi Schmid, Adrian Fehn, Cornelia Brunner, Arefeh Rouhi, Gabriela Chiosis, Marcus Cronauer, Thomas Seufferlein, Ninel Azoitei*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


The repurposing of existing drugs has emerged as an attractive additional strategy to the development of novel compounds in the fight against cancerous diseases. Inhibition of phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) has been claimed as a potential approach to target various cancer subtypes in recent years. However, data on the treatment of tumors with PDE5 inhibitors as well as the underlying mechanisms are as yet very scarce. Here, we report that treatment of tumor cells with low concentrations of Sildenafil was associated with decreased cancer cell proliferation and augmented apoptosis in vitro and resulted in impaired tumor growth in vivo. Notably, incubation of cancer cells with Sildenafil was associated with altered expression of HSP90 chaperone followed by degradation of protein kinase D2, a client protein previously reported to be involved in tumor growth. Furthermore, the involvement of low doses of PU-H71, an HSP90 inhibitor currently under clinical evaluation, in combination with low concentrations of Sildenafil, synergistically and negatively impacted on the viability of cancer cells in vivo. Taken together, our study suggests that repurposing of already approved drugs, alone or in combination with oncology-dedicated compounds, may represent a novel cancer therapeutic strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1421-1431
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)


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